The Acolyte: “We made a martial arts Star Wars series, far from the Mandalorian western”

Return to the Galaxy far, far away, this week on Disney Plus, with the new Star Wars series, which takes us back to the time of the High Republic, that of the all-powerful Jedi. Creator and director Leslye Headland explains what to expect.

Half a century later, the world of George Lucas continues to fascinate and inspire. Leslie Headland wasn't born when came out Star Wars At the movie theater. But the creator of Russian dolls on Netflix, which became known in 2012 with Bachelorette, is passionate about Star Wars. She managed to convince the boss of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedyto entrust him with the first work in the saga dedicated to the era of the High Republic, which has excited fans for decades. The Acolyyou takes us back to an era never before seen on screens, that of the all-powerful Jedi, the dominant order in the Galaxy, who maintains Peace by scrupulously following its rules and moral code… and imposes it on the planets affiliated with the Coruscant government. Another way of thinking Star Wars, for a series that cultivates its difference with The Mandalorian & co, as the director and creator confides to Première Leslie Headland. Interview.


FIRST : What difference does a story take place during the High Republic make?
Leslie Headland
: More precisely, the story takes place between the events of the High Republic and those of The Phantom Menace. So, it is not necessary to be an absolute fan, to know the history of Star Wars by heart to understand everything. We had the opportunity to explore this age where the Jedi are at the peak of their power and somewhat stunned by the Force, in a way. This is what we see in The Phantom Menace. They are not able to sense the true intentions in Palpatine and have let him take a huge place, politically. Our series therefore makes the link between this era of the Jedi and the collapse announced in The Phantom Menace. It is shown how the Jedi ultimately went in the wrong direction, which will lead to the events of the prelogy.

To what extent did you have the right to invent, to imagine this High Republic never seen before? Kathleen Kennedy gave you a free hand?
In fact, I first pitched to Kathleen Kennedy a big, totally original story, which did not refer to any character we know. It didn't even mention the High Republic or any timeline at first. We thus began to develop the plot without connection with the rest of the saga. Basically, we both had this desire to do a series of martial arts, to pay homage to the first influences of George Lucas (who was inspired by Kurosawa and the film The Hidden FortressEditor's note), moving away from the western aspect of The Mandalorian notably.

Fans have been waiting for so long to see a Star Wars during the time of the High Republic. That adds pressure, right?
Always a bit when working in the world of George Lucas. But not more than that actually. Above all, I was delighted to be in this world. I am a huge fan of Star Wars and the original trilogy. I then loved the series Clone Wars. So being able to write one myself…

The Acolyte Star Wars

For the first time in half a century, the story moves away from Skywalkers. Does it allow you to reinvent Star Wars somehow ?
Not necessarily reinvent Star Wars, it would be weird to say that. No, it's more a way of playing with Star Wars, to challenge yourself to do something new in this universe. Without Skywalker or any other iconic character. In fact, the big question this poses is: Star Wars does it exist as a universe in its own right, without its emblematic characters? Obviously, I think so! With or without Skywalker, this world actually makes sense.

What place will the Force take in the series?
We see the Jedi use the Force in a completely new way in their battles. The Acolyte is thought of as a series of kung-fu, in which the bare-handed confrontation would be boosted by the Force! It's used in a completely different way than what we've seen in the franchise so far. There is hand-to-hand combat in our series, which is a change from the lightsabers or laser guns that are usually the focus of clashes in Star Wars. The idea being to establish that at this time, the Jedi did not take out their lightsabers for a yes or a no. They were taking them out in the face of a real threat. This weapon is only used when the Jedi are ready to finally kill. The Jedi institution is benevolent and spiritually virtuous.

The Acolyte Star Wars

So virtuous, that she will generate certain animosity and hatred in the Galaxy! Would you say that The Acolyte is, in this sense, also a political series? Showing how a society that would like to be based entirely on virtue is doomed?
No, it's not a political series. Our Jedi do not play politics, as we can see them for example playing politics with the Senate in The Phantom Menace. We are in an era of Peace and they are only the guardians of this peace in the High Republic.

The story also talks about the resurgence of the Sith. Do you suddenly adopt the point of view of the dark side?
Yes, because it's also the story of the dark side, at times. I have always been attracted to villains, to immoral characters. I like finding the humanity, the vulnerability hidden in bad guys, because no one wakes up one morning having become fundamentally evil! They were not born bad. Our villains, in The Acolyte, are convinced that they are doing what needs to be done. They think they are doing what is right. In the original trilogy or in the recent sequels, the Jedi are an endangered species. They are challengers facing the all-powerful Empire. But in our series, it is those who organize the Galaxy and the others, those who oppose them, are in fact the outsiders, they are the rebels. These are the minority populations who disagree with the Jedi. The roles are reversed here.

Will lightsabers be used often in The Acolyte ?
There will be a lot of lightsaber fights in the series, but you shouldn't expect to see Attack of the Clones. Nothing will ever surpass Attack of the Clones in this matter.

Star Wars: The Acolyte, season 1 in 8 episodes, to watch from Wednesday June 5 on Disney Plus.


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